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Build the Wall!

Friday, 29 June, 2018 - 2:20 pm

This Sunday, July 1, millions of Jews will fast from dusk to nightfall in remembrance of a tragic event that took place on this day some 1950 years ago. On this day, the 17th of Tammuz, the Romans breached the walls of Jerusalem after a long siege and went on to destroy the holy temple and Jerusalem, driving the Jews into a long exile in which we still find ourselves. Our sages explain that while the actual destruction would happen only three weeks later, the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem spelled the end and it was only a matter of time when the temple would also go up in flames. In other words, when our protective walls were broken through there was no longer any hope, it was downhill from there. It is for this reason that we dedicate this day to fast and better our ways so that we can hasten the day when we will end this exile and once again build Jerusalem and the Temple.

 Like everything in Judaism, this too has a lesson for us living in America (or where ever you live) today. Our fasting is not only to remember the tragedy that happened many years ago but it is also a reminder that today, as then, we are vulnerable if we allow our ‘walls’ to be breached. You’re probably wondering which walls I am referring to, so let me explain.

Life can be very challenging. We marry, build a family and try to raise our children as best as we can so that they can grow up as mentchen (good people) and good Jews. We hope that our children will befriend only good and like-minded moral individuals. We pray that when they go off to college they will do well and be focused on the right things. We look to heaven and ask that G-d lead them in the right direction and find them good matches. People always ask me how to raise good children? What is the secret to successful parenting? There is more than one answer to this question obviously, but drawing upon the lessons of the upcoming fast day and what it represents, let me advise the following: Build Walls! Build walls of morality around yourself, your children and your homes and never let those walls to be breached. Sit down with your spouses and decide how you want your children to grow up? What moral values you want to instill in them? What values are absolutes and which are not. This is extremely important.

I was invited last year to give a talk to a group of Chassidic women in Wisconsin on how to raise Chassidic children. I opened my talk with a question to one of the women in the audience. I asked her how she and her husband wanted their children to grow up? What kind of children they wanted? She looked at me and said; what do you mean? We want our children to grow up to be real Chassidic Jews, to follow in its ways and to cherish being Chassidim. This answer was too general I explained. Of course we want our children to be ‘good’, but “the devil is in the details”. I asked her if she was able to tell me more specifically what she meant by Chassidic children? How Chassidic? What was a must and what was secondary? I gave her the same advise; that she should spend a half hour with her husband to figure out more or less what their outlook was and how they plan on getting that result.

We all want good results. But just like in a business venture, it is inadequate to just set out a goal to earn a profit. One must be more specific; how much of a profit is realistic and what would be considered success. The same is with the most important business venture ever; raising children. It is simply not enough to desire ‘good children’. Define for yourself the meaning of ‘good’ and figure out how you plan on achieving that goal. For some ‘good’ means becoming a doctor, for others ‘good’ means being honest, for others it means being kind, for some it means marrying Jewish and still for others ‘good’ means observing all of the Torah’s commandments. I am sure for most of us it is a combination of some or all of the above. In each case we need to define it and set practical ways of achieving that outcome. If you want your children to be honest you need to be doubly honest yourself. You need to erect a ‘wall’ of values that breed honesty and those walls may never be breached. Too often people allow their ‘walls' to be breached and then just move the goal post when it becomes convenient to do so.

This then is the lesson of the fast day commemorating the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem. We need walls. We need to build walls of moral values around our families and protect those walls so that they are never breached. We live at a time when walls keep coming down. Morality has become relative. There are so few values that are absolutes. If we allow our ‘walls’ of morality to be 'breached' we run the high risk of our very ‘temple’ (our children) to be completely destroyed. So yes, build that wall, make it thick and tall, and do it quickly.

Shabbat Shalom and have an easy fast.



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